Monday, August 24, 2009

Around London's West End Theatre District

"Let us change the subject...for the last time"- Hirst, No Man's Land by Harold Pinter

"There's man all over for you, blaming on his boots the faults of his feet" - Vladimir, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

"Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief." - Polonius, Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Aside from utilizing London as a great hub to jump off and travel around Europe and beyond, I’ve also made it a priority to take advantage of the rich theatre and performing arts scene. In my opinion, and from what I’ve experienced, London’s West End theatre district and the quality and quantity of performances are second to none.

I have been able to attend three plays; No Man’s Land by Harold Pinter, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett and most recently on Saturday, Hamlet by William Shakespeare. I chose these plays based on my interest and familiarity in the story and the quality of the production and cast. Each performance boasted legendary stage directors as well as high profile celebrities who had made brief breaks from cinema to perform on the esteemed London stage. In some cases, in particular with Michael Gambon, Sir Ian McKellan, and Patrick Stewart, there were legendary stage actors returning to the London theatre.

NO MAN'S LAND by Harold Pinter

No Man’s Land – December, Duke of York’s Theatre, West End; Directed by Rupert Goold, starring Michael Gambon (also known as Dumbledore in the Harry Potter flicks)

Set in the reception of a mansion in London's elite Hampstead Heath neighborhood, the play tells the story of an old, formerly distinguished poet who has fallen into a state of alcoholism and madness. Occurring in one night, most of the drunken dialogue is between Hirst, our protagonist, and Spooner, a person who we presume to be a stranger whom Hirst had met in a pub, but who also appears at times to have been an old friend or acquaintance. The cast is rounded out by Foster and Briggs, an amanuensis and man servant respectively who maintain an ambiguous type of relationship.


Waiting for Godot – July, Royal Haymarket Theatre, West End; Directed by Sean Mathias, starring Sir Ian McKellan (Magneto in the X-Men flicks, Gandalf in The Lord of The Rings trilogy, and Leigh Teabing in the DaVinci Code), Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Professor Xavier in the X-Men flicks)

For people who are familiar with existentialism, this play needs no introduction and I will not exhaust myself by attempting to explain my own interpretation of this highly layered, confusing, but intelligent work of art. It would take too much time and would probably bore most readers (as my book reviews, which I have now stopped posting, probably did earlier this year). McKellan and Stewart were made to don the roles of Gogo and Didi together on stage and I haven't seen a performance to date where the players performed with so much swagger and enjoyment.

HAMLET by William Shakesphere

Hamlet – August, Wyndham's Theatre, West End; Directed by Michael Grandage, Artistic Direction/Consultation by Kenneth Branagh, starring Jude Law (requires no introduction) and a huge array of other notable London stage actors with numerous television and film appearances.

Besides the brilliant, albeit a little "emo", portrayal of Prince Hamlet by Jude Law and the fantastic stage setting and production, it was a bit surreal to be sitting four rows behind Robert Downey Jr. and his wife (guessing he was in town because of the filming in London of the upcoming Sherlock Holmes film co-starring Jude Law as Dr. Watson).

After the show Lily and I switched into paparazzi mode, waiting by his car in front of Wyndham's Theatre along with the rest of the crowds of celebrity-spotters and paparazzo. She was able to snatch an autograph from him and I snapped a couple of pretty decent close-ups of him being assailed by the crowds. Next we rushed to the back entrance of the theatre and waited for Jude Law to make his exit. As this was the closing night of the performance he stuck around for a while signing autographs and Lily was once again able to sneak her way through the crowds to get our ticket signed. Again, I snapped a couple of decent close-ups seen here on this post.

I'm going to continue to keep an eye out for great shows, but there are just too many to keep track of and I know I will miss an opportunity at some point. While you can always try to get "day of" tickets (a small number of seats that are held and then opened to the general public the day of the show), if you want to secure a great seat, or a seat at all, BOOK EARLY! To put it into perspective, when Hamlet went on sale in January 2009, the closing night in August sold out online within hours. I ended up buying them on (UK equivalent to craigslist) at a premium.

Some good websites to stay plugged into the scene are: and

We will be moving on to other styles of production for a bit when we see Puccini's Turandot performed by the English National Opera in November. Stay tuned...


  1. Either I have no life or I just find this blog completely fascinating is!!! Maybe I have a secret "Lily and Keenan" obsession and am living the life I would want to live in London, vicariously, through you both! Jude Law and Downey Junior spottings...are you kidding me!?!?!!! So envious!!! -From: who else? ME(jgan)!

  2. sounds like you two had a grand ole time. Is Jude and Robert cuties in person?

  3. Jude is so dreamy! And RD, Jr. looks pretty dame good for his age. Hopefully, more celebrity-spotting to come...

    Love, L.